Marginal gains and gross indecency – The ugly side of a beautiful sport

Naked cyclist Victoria PendletonCycling is not sexy. That’s why a Google search for bike porn returns bikes rather than Lycra clad cyclists. Type the oxymoron that is “sexy cyclists” into the search engine and it simply goes into meltdown until it eventually finds the none too flattering image of a naked Victoria Pendleton hunched over her bike. Or worst still, returns images of the world naked bike rides. Still, at least nudist beaches are quieter for one day of the year.

The worst cycling kit of all time?

Yes, they really are wearing it. Nope, they're not naked. Look again (like I need to ask). Wow.

Yes, they really are wearing it. Nope, they’re not naked. Look again (like I need to ask). Wow.

This horror show of an image is of a female cycling team from Colombia wearing what can only be described as a flesh coloured ‘naked’ cycling kit. At first glance it looks like the women’s team are naked. What were the designers thinking? Male no doubt, who surely knew what monster they were creating. Or so you would think. Apparently the kit was designed by a fellow female rider. You er, cover a groin with a flesh coloured kit and you are asking for a social media storm.

What about the women, what were they thinking wearing the flesh coloured kit? Surely they raised concern when trying on what looks like a see-through kit? Apparently not, they approved say the authorities. Is this the state of women’s cycling when women feel compelled to wear a nude coloured kit that makes them look naked in all of the wrong places (nice touch to cover the arms!)? Or that the cycling authorities, even the Columbian government, deem this appropriate? Even if the kit was cut from the waist up it would have been inappropriate but to go so low? Wow. Funny? In a 14 year-old schoolboy kind of way maybe. Cringe-worthy? Definitely.

Cycle to feel good not look good

I ride to feel good not look good. Which is fortunate because any sense of style I might cling to off the bike disappears the moment I clip in. Male or female, cycling is quick to strip away any sense of fashion. Let’s take it from the top to the bottom.

Head

For most of you this means helmet. Side-step the phallic connotations of the word and all you are left with is an image as ugly as the great helmet debate itself. Only one person looks good in a helmet. Darth Vader. Helmet less as I am, my headwear of choice is a buff, worn Rambo style, only somewhat less macho. This has the effect of making my hair stand-up not too dissimilar to a baby orangutan. Oh dear.

Face

Blood bursting, capillary popping intervals are not going to win you a Nivea skin contract. The varying tones of red and purple are more likely to attract the attention of balaclava manufacturers rather than the opposite sex. Come winter, you also have to contend with the inevitable stream of snot running down one or both sides of your face. Maybe a bit of drool too for good measure.

I’ll also occasionally get home to find bits of banana or patches of Soreen stuck to my face. Mommy never did teach me how to eat properly whilst riding. To top the look of a cyclist off, just add orange lensed glasses. Damn, we’re hot.

The body

We don't even own bikes

We don’t even own bikes

Cycling jerseys lack style, despite the recent efforts of higher end apparel producers. All black? High viz yellow? Team kits? Eugh. Go faster stripes and sausage maker sponsors – as a cyclist you’d look very comfortable in a British wrestling ring circa 1980.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse the cycling industry decides to demean time trialists with an even worst outfit to go along with the dullest race. Skinsuits. Oh and those funny helmets that make you as aero as possible so you can outrun the fashion police.

The very latest addition to cycling’s crimes against fashion is Sky’s new see-through team kit as modelled by burlesque queen Chris Froome. When this makes it to your local bike shop it’ll be a case of marginal gains and gross indecency. Pass me the sick bucket.

Still, like descending into the sewer, the horrors only get worse the lower you go.

Cycling shorts.

Yes gentlemen, you know what I’m talking about. The horror is best summed up in one word. Bulges. I apologise for the images this projects. Oh and the one above. Just don’t stare at the shorts. Enough of the front er, bits, how about the rear? As much as padding is essential for comfort, it’s difficult to feel sexy waddling around in a huge nappy. Yet the worst is still to come. Ever been stuck behind someone wearing old, stretched Lycra shorts? Such visions will remain burned on your brain forever more.

The feet

Anyone who has tried walking in non-recessed cleats, particularly those of the Look Delta or Keo variety, will not feel sexy. Is this how models feel as they catwalk their way across the world in high heels? Clickety-clack, stand aside, here comes a clog-footed stick insect on ice. Pull on some booties to keep your toes toasty and congratulations, you look stupid.

In praise of Lycra and spandex

Must not forget pointy helmet in future

Must not forget pointy helmet in future

Lycra, spandex or elastane, depending on which part of the world you are from, is synonymous with cycling. Expands. This is the answer to the spandex anagram. A magic material that stretches over our bodies but seems to shrink the minds of many a person who clearly have no idea why cyclists wear Lycra. Why would anybody do that to themselves they wonder? Why are they pretending to be Bradley Wiggins? Why would they reveal themselves to me like that? Indecent exposure indeed, I’ve seen less revealing flashers.

Many cyclists also decry the use of Lycra so bad is its image. Such cyclists have never ridden over 50 miles in the heat or rain, that much I can tell you. As Elvis Presley once said, “Don’t criticise what you don’t understand. You never walked in that man’s shoes.” That’s right, there’s a reason why superheroes wear Lycra. Superman and wonder woman don’t do chaffing.

“It is estimated that of the 20.5 billion pieces of clothing Americans bought last year, 80 percent of those garments had spandex in them.”
Random fact, 2010, denied by the fast food industry

More meat on a butcher’s pencil

Photoshop free but not chafe free

Photoshop free but not chafe free

Away from the clothes, many cyclists sport a body so thin they can hide behind their foot-pump should they so wish. Skeletal, you can see why some spend thousands reducing the weight on their bike as opposed to their body. Add to that a few dodgy tan lines and you have some sort of weird android drone cruising your highways in the hunt for Strava segments.

Many cyclists are proud of their legs. Not me. Big chunky muscle bound thighs or vein rippled chiselled calves? Eugh. I don’t care how slowly I have to cycle to avoid such atrocities. Meanwhile my top half atrophies no matter how many repetitions of the bidon I manage.

What about you, are you willing to step onto the comments catwalk and admit to your two-wheeled fashion faux pas?

One for the ladies. Bradley Wiggins debuting the new see-through Sky team kit

One for the ladies. Bradley Wiggins debuting the new see-through Sky team kit

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Images courtesy of 1) Alan Mahon 2) Unknown 3) Unknown 4) Unknown 5) The Sun 6) Unknown

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13 thoughts on “Marginal gains and gross indecency – The ugly side of a beautiful sport

    • I have to say I had a lot of fun searching for cycling photos with search terms such as “sexy cyclists”, “naked cyclists”, “hot chicks and chaps in lycra” and “bike porn”. Saw a tremendous number of good looking bikes…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love this! As someone who started a bike clothing company based on the premise that riding gear ought to feel nice and look good to normal people (not just other cyclists) I’m hoping that this movement grows and this race-obsessed industry starts to offer what ‘normal’ cyclists actually want.
    My favourite quote from a review was in HardTailNation, who described stereotype, lycra-clad cyclists in a cafes and pubs after a ride as looking like “sweaty power rangers”. Brilliant!
    There are a few brands out there trying to wean the world of daft shorts and stinky, dayglo jerseys; we are but one, but it’s definitely growing. This year we’re hoping to start work on gear that you can ride to work in – and then stay at work in, but for now the “one shirt to do it all” approach is where it’s at.
    At the risk of spamming (apologies if you feel it’s not appropriate here; please delete if so) here’s our offering: http://www.whackjob.co.uk

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    • Sweaty power rangers, thank you, another beautiful image to add to my head alongside all of those bulges! Love it. I’m beginning to notice what I hope is the beginning of a clothing revolution for cyclists and long may it continue.

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  2. ‘…until it eventually finds the non too flattering image of a naked Victoria Pendleton hunched over her bike.’

    Really? You don’t go for this? Gorgeous shot, gorgeous woman.. there’s nothing off about any of it. Goodness, you’re uptight. And all this fear of ‘bulges’? Seriously?

    For the record, plenty of things work well in 50+ mile rides, whether in rain or shine, but it seems the only thing I can possibly agree with you here is that Lycra is not something that is ever styled well. I’ll take Rapha’s city collection any day, whether it’s a work commute or a randonée. Those outfits are solid through at least 136 miles straight.

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    • Hello and welcome to the blog Daniel. My psychiatrist is working with me to remove my irrational fear of bulges. Sportives are a nightmare – panic attack city!

      Apologies if you missed some of my intended humour above. Love Vicky (with or without clothes on), just think the image used above is none too flattering for the female form.

      Agree with you on wearing other clothes for cycling, however I find Lycra the most comfortable when things get wet or sticky.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You will find it is the bodies of the’cyclist’ that ruin the cut of let’s say a nice bit of castelli kit…. It’s the 20kg of excess body fat on the average mamil that wrecks the lines, not the clothing, as for the c@@k shots, well you don’t have to do that do you…. Strikes me as a bit of a borderline sex offender if you walk into a cafe like that. Not like its a problem to tidy yourself up is it…FFS

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  4. Great post – loving the picture choices!
    HOWEVER – as a “social media expert” for a large bicycle chain – I disagree with the idea behind: “Cycling is not sexy. That’s why a Google search for bike porn returns bikes rather than Lycra clad cyclists.”
    Admittedly, I’ve not googled “bike porn” but I very often type “cycling” and “bike into the search bar of Pintrest and Tumblr. The results are very often littered with pictured of naked women draped over bikes/up-skirt shots of women on bikes, pictures of women in bibs shorts with no bras or jerseys, and more recently a strange amount of male on male porn on bikes, with large erect peni dangling over bikes. You’ll understand my vague discomfort when scrolling through libraries of pictures at work when looking for a (non pornographic!) funny/interesting bike related picture to share at 6pm..
    Anyway, I’m not making any particular point (I could talk about how sexist most of these are – and the fact I see more women posing naked with bikes for men’s titillation than I actually see riding them – but it’s not relevant as that’s not the point of your article), only pointing out that clearly you’ve been lucky enough to miss out on large amounts of slightly misplaced images.
    Happy riding!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Michelle. I did indeed come across one or two enclaves of naked cycling, mostly on Google Plus where such pictures are posted to a specific community that er, shall we say, celebrates the female form draped over a bicycle.

      Cycling is still very much a masculine and therefore sexist sport – nothing like good ol’ tradition eh? There was a good conversation on Twitter recently about the lack of gay pro cyclists too, how there’s plenty of openly gay female cyclists but zero men.

      Anyhow, I digress. Thank you for increasing my SEO keywords! Since this post went live there’s been quite an insight into people’s minds and fantasies. Sexy Queen Victoria anyone?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Look good and feel great – Cycle | The Human Cyclist

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